Who Killed Carlo Tresca?
New York City in the vicinity of 15th street and Fifth Avenue was quiet and the streets almost deserted in the dim-out on Monday evening, January 11, 1943. Carlo Tresca, courageous and uncompromising radical editor, sat in his third-floor office on the southwest corner of that intersection, where he had long carried on a fight against totalitarianism in his Italian-language journal, Il Martello (The Hammer.)
He was waiting now with Giuseppe Calabi, an attorney and refugee from Italy, for four other men, who with Tresca and Calabi, had been recently chosen by the New York chapter of the Mazzini Society to form an expanded committee for anti-Fascist campaigning. The four others to whom Tresca had written inviting them to meet him in his office, were Vanni Montana, secretary to Luigi Antonini, president of the Italian-American Labor Council; John Sala, an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America; Giovanni Profenna; and Gian Mario Lanzilotti. But they did not appear. No word came from them, and phone calls by the editor failed to locate any of them.* At 9:30 Tresca concluded it was useless to wait any longer, and he and Calabi left the office together about 9:38, intending to go to a tavern diagonally opposite on Fifth Avenue before going home.
There are two entrances to the building at 96 Fifth Avenue. As a rule Tresca used the 15th Street door. That night was no exception. He and his companion walked eastward about 75 feet to the corner, then crossed 15th Street. A traffic light halted them at the Avenue, and at that instant a man stepped up behind them and fired four shots from an automatic pistol. One bullet struck Tresca in the back, a second hit him in the head. Then two shots went wild. The victim fell to the pavement beneath a street light which was half obscured by its dim-out shield. The killer escaped in a dark sedan which sped west in 15th street and disappeared from view. Tresca died on the pavement almost before the death car had vanished.
Samuel Sherman, clothier at 100 Fifth Avenue, heard the shots and saw the car speed away. He notified the police, who arrived shortly, and searching the immediate neighborhood, they found a fully loaded .38 calibre revolver in an ash-can near the Fifth Avenue entrance to No. 96. Since the shooting was done with a .32 automatic pistol, this indicated that two gun-men had waited for Tresca, one posted at each exit from the building. Evidently the crime had been carefully planned, in the same professional style as the actual shooting, which was done so swiftly and smoothly that Tresca's companion did not have time to get a good look at either the killer or the car in which he made is getaway. From the two other
*According to the New York Times, January 14, 1943, "District Attorney Frank Hogan said yesterday that he was satisfied with the explanation of all four absent members of the subcommittee of the Mazzini Society... One had a prior engagement, one failed to get the notice of the meeting, one did not think it important, and the other forgot it."